Florida Criminal Process

No matter whether you are facing charges for your first offense or a subsequent one, the Florida criminal process can be difficult and stressful to navigate. Every single step in the process from your arrest or notice to appear to sentencing is key to the outcome of your Florida criminal case. It is critical to have a comprehensive and customized defense strategy for your case from very early on. Having an experienced Brooksville criminal defense attorney at your side from the beginning fighting to protect your rights and your future could be the difference between a dismissal and a conviction.

Florida Criminal Process | Brooksville Defense Lawyer

One of the special rights being a United States citizen grants you is being innocent of all charges until proven guilty. When facing criminal charges in Hernando County, Citrus County, Sumter County, or the surrounding areas there is no need to shoulder the burden alone. With a family history of successful legal professionals, Ashley Aulls will fight hard to protect your rights and your future. He will work directly with you on your defense strategy and educate you about the process as it pertains to your case.

The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. was founded on the principle that the client is just as important as the case, so communication lines are always open to the clients of Ashley Aulls. To schedule your consultation on what The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. can do for your Florida criminal case, call (352) 593-4115 today.

Florida Criminal Process Information Center

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Common Arrests for Florida Offenses in the Hernando County Area

In 2012, over 14,000 arrests were made in Hernando County, Sumter County, and Citrus County combined. Though there are over 300 misdemeanor and felony offenses listed in the Florida Statutes, arrests for certain offenses did trend more than others in areas like Brooksville, Spring Hill, Homosassa Springs, Sugarmill Woods, and Lake Panasoffkee. Some of the more common arrests made in the Hernando County area include the following offenses:

  • DUI
  • Theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Burglary
  • Assault
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Drug Possession

An arrest for one of these offenses does not necessarily mean conviction. An experienced Brooksville criminal defense attorney can fight to protect your rights and your future from such a conviction by working for a reduction or dismissal of charges, or even a not guilty verdict.

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Arrest or Notice to Appear

The criminal process with a defendant in Florida begins one of two ways. Either the defendant is arrested and booked, or the defendant is issued a notice to appear. An arrest can occur due to a warrant or due to a law enforcement officer placing you under arrest for reasonable cause. In the case of an arrest and booking of a defendant, the rest of the Florida criminal process continues almost immediately. The first appearance in the case of an arrest and booking occurs before a judge within 24-48 hours, and the process continues from there. Procedures for a notice to appear are different.

A notice to appear is an order written by a law enforcement officer in lieu of physical arrest and/or booking of a defendant that requires the defendant to appear in court at a certain date and time. An arresting officer can generally issue a notice to appear for first-degree and second-degree misdemeanors when the defendant has been compliant to requests for identifying information and when the officer determines the defendant is not a threat to him/herself or the public, a flight risk, or a wanted person.

A booking officer can issue a notice to appear if he or she believes, after investigation, that the defendant has a strong likelihood of appearing based on factors like residence in and/or ties to the community, employment record, and past criminal record. Once the notice to appear is issued in both circumstances, the defendant is released from custody. It is best when considering an experienced criminal defense attorney for your defense strategy to call your lawyer of choice as soon as possible after your arrest and booking or notice to appear.

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First Appearance

The purpose of the first appearance is to serve the defendant with his or her criminal charges, ensure he or she has legal counsel, and determine conditions for pretrial release – such as bail. According to Rule 3.130 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, this first appearance must take place before a judge within 24-48 hours of the defendant’s imprisonment. The defendant may have an experienced Hernando County criminal defense attorney present and does not have to speak, though anything the defendant says can and will be used against him or her in future proceedings.

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Preliminary Hearing

The next step in the Florida Criminal Process for your Hernando County, Citrus County, or Sumter County criminal case is one of the most critical steps – the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing is basically the trial before the trial; it is here that your experienced Brooksville criminal defense attorney can try different strategies like motions to dismiss to have the case against you reduced or dismissed.

Evidence is held against a lower standard of probable cause, which means it must be likely to a prudent person that a crime was probably committed, and that you probably committed it. If your case goes to trial by judge or jury, what does or does not work as a strategy in the preliminary hearing is critical to what strategies your experienced Spring Hill criminal lawyer will use at trial.

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Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is the step in the process after the preliminary hearing in which the case was not dismissed, and either the defense or the prosecution – or both – wish to try and negotiate a plea agreement. This step in the process is optional, not a right, and may occur at any time after your preliminary hearing but before final adjudication.  It can also be terminated by either side at any point after initiation if the prosecution or defense feels that the process would be better handled by a judge or jury.

The prosecution may pursue a plea bargain if enough evidence was dismissed at the preliminary hearing to make the trial a gamble, or for other reasons like having a fully court docket and the defendant’s alleged offense is nonviolent. You and your experienced Citrus County criminal attorney may pursue plea bargaining to attempt a better outcome, or since it can be terminated at any point, to explore all of your options before trial. The bargain usually involved a guilty plea or no contest plea in exchange for a lesser charge and/or more lenient sanctions.

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Arraignment Hearing

The arraignment hearing in Florida is the critical point in the criminal process that decides whether the case will proceed to sentencing or trial. The defendant is formally presented with his or her charges and directed to enter a formal plea of no contest (nolo contendre), not guilty, or guilty. A plea of guilty or no contest will cause the case to move forward into sentencing. A plea of not guilty will move the case forward to trial. This step in the process is waived for the defendant who strikes a plea agreement with the prosecution.

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Trial by Judge or Trial by Jury and Sentencing

Upon entrance of a plea of not guilty at the arraignment, your Florida criminal case will move to trial. At the point, you and your qualified Sumter County criminal defense lawyer will need to decide on a trial by judge or trial by jury, as well as prepare your defense strategy. For a trial by judge, both sides present their case before a judge of the jurisdiction for the case and then he or she will make the final decision concerning guilt based on the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

A trial by jury is when the defense and the prosecution go through a jury selection process, argue both sides before the chosen jury and a judge of the jurisdiction in court, and the jury returns the verdict after deliberation. In either scenario, if the verdict is not guilty the defendant is given immediate leave of court. For a guilty verdict,  sentencing is scheduled for two weeks to 90 days from the date of trial.

At sentencing, a judge will hear arguments for both sides regarding what would be appropriate punishment for the defendant regarding the offense. A judge will take statutory penalties for the offense, the arguments of both sides, and other factors into consideration and will issue probation, jail or prison time, community service, education, or other sanctions accordingly. Having an experienced Brooksville defense lawyer at your side during the sentencing process to argue mitigating circumstances can be the critical difference between maximum penalties and more reasonable ones.

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Resources for the Florida Criminal Process in West Central Florida

Florida Bar – Florida Criminal Process – This links to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure as hosted by the Florida Bar website. Explore this page for more detailed information on how the Florida Criminal Process works, and how it may apply to your case.

Fifth Judicial Circuit Court in Hernando County – The Fifth Judicial Circuit Court in Brooksville hears felony, domestic relations, juvenile, probate, guardianship, child support, and civil cases exceeding $15,000 in controversy. This court serves Hernando County, Sumter County, Citrus County, Lake County, and Marion County; follow this link to go to the court’s homepage.

20 North Main Street
Brooksville, FL, 34601
(352) 754-4201

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 The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. | Attorney for Florida Criminal Process in Hernando County

If you have been arrested or served with a notice to appear for a Florida criminal charge in Spring Hill, Brooksville, North Weeki Wachee, Homosassa Springs, Floral City, Wildwood, Lake Panasoffkee, or the surrounding areas, contact The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A. today. Ashley Aulls will work closely with you to make sure your defense is customized and that you are well-educated about the process. To schedule your consultation with The Law Office of Ashley Aulls, P.A., call (352) 593-4115 today.